Winnie Chan of Bynd Artisan: How I Reinvented Our Family Business And Made It My Own
From her experience at her family’s stationery business, Winnie Chan of Bynd Artisan created a unique bookbinding business that has taken Singapore by storm.
Before I founded Bynd Artisan together with my husband, James Quan, I was working with my family business for 18 years. In the past, my grandfather’s business focused on traditional paper and leather goods in a B2B format—designing, printing, manufacturing and distribution to wholesalers.
Growing up in a family of stationery-makers sparked my interest and love for old-school stationery products. After graduating from university, I decided to join my family business as a result of my passion towards stationery products.
However, as technology surfaced, many products such as diaries and accounts book became expendable and increasingly irrelevant.
Increasingly, I started noticing more and more businesses incorporating technology into their business models to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of digitalisation. It was at this point that I realised the need for a new business to replace my family business, which was slowly declining.
I wanted stationery to be viewed in a different light and together with James, who has a 20-year background in corporate gifting, we conceptualised Bynd Artisan with the help of our branding agency, &Larry.
Starting a new business was no mean feat. Our initial idea was to adopt a westernised approach when it came to branding, but after a year of planning and investing in efforts, we came to realise that this approach gave us no unique selling points in an already saturated retail scene.
Back then, the Support Local movement was just beginning to take traction, with more local brands and designers emerging. Enlightened by this, we felt that our concept should take on a completely different approach. We'd leverage and showcase the heritage and legacy of some of our greatest practising craftsmen, individuals who grew up in and with the trade.
After another year of fine-tuning our initial brand strategy, Bynd Artisan was born. We not only embraced our true Asian roots by celebrating the art and joy of craftsmanship. We also upped the ante and made stationery sexy—an unexpected association that never crossed minds before.
I wanted stationery to be an elegant and personal accessory that complements every user. It was important to me that the brand had distinctive products that weren't found elsewhere but also other unique selling points that would redefine experiential retail spaces.
For this, we created dedicated spaces, which are now known as our Ateliers. These could both accommodate and showcase different experiential aspects of Bynd Artisan:
- A live crafting area where consumers get to interact with our craftsmen, watching them assemble unique, customised notebooks.
- A luxurious range of paper and leather products that not only withstand the test of time, but can also be personalised with names or initials.
- Designer collaboration pieces that extend beyond the typical stationery and leather products.
- A workshop area where various leather crafting, bookbinding, calligraphy, and painting classes are conducted, allowing customers to learn from our craftsmen and external instructors.
Today, Bynd Artisan turns three and we are now open in five locations all over Singapore. The brand has won two distinguished accolades over the past two consecutive years:
- President’s Design Award, Design of the Year 2016
- Best Shopping Experience awarded at Singapore Tourism Awards 2017
Bynd Artisan was also cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in this year’s May Day Rally Speech. He called it a prime example of business innovation for all SMEs.
This further affirms that establishing Bynd Artisan was the right move to make 3 years back. We have never been more proud to watch our brainchild flourish into what it is today!